Antrim 1-19 Laois 2-24 #JoeMcDonaghCup
20th May 2019
Joe McDonagh Cup – Round 2
Antrim 1-19 Laois 2-24
Saturday May 18
Brendan McTaggart reports from O’Moore Park, Portlaoise
Antrim’s misery against Laois showed no signs of ending on Saturday afternoon as the O’Moore County saw off the Saffron challenge. Eight points separated the sides at the end of the 70 minutes but it was the home side’s ability to take their goal chances that effectively changed the game.
First half goals from Paddy Purcell and Willie Dunphy set them on their way with Dunphy’s 26th minute goal the major blow for the Saffrons. Trailing by six points, Antrim were awarded a penalty but Neil McManus’ effort was superbly saved by Enda Rowland in the Laois goals. Barely 60 seconds later the Laois lead was extended to double figures. A seven point swing that gave the home side a substantial lead and had Antrim on the backfoot for the remainder of the game.
Rowland’s penalty save was right out of the top drawer and unfortunately for the Saffrons, it wasn’t an isolated incident. He denied Antrim on a further five occasions while the Saffrons were also denied by the crossbar and post. Antrim’s goal came in the 61st minute, McManus converting a 20 metre free despite six Laois men on the line but it was all in vain.
Laois were slicker from the first whistle with their running off the shoulder hugely impressive. Their teamwork and work ethic gave the Saffrons little time to settle and while Antrim fared better after the restart, they were always up against it to turn the match around.
Antrim captain Conor McCann takes a tumble over Laois corner back Joe Phelan who brilliantly blocked down McCann’s shot at goal.
Last day out 13 men in a Saffron shirt wrote their name on the list of scorers, on Saturday they had an equally impressive eight. McManus top scoring with 1-3 (1-1, free and 0-1 ’65) while Keelan Molloy and Ryan McCambridge recorded 0-4 from play each. The Ruairi Og man saw red for a second yellow late in the game to take some of the shine off what was another strong performance but the home side were worthy of their margin of victory on the balance of play.
Antrim were guilty of too many errors while Laois seemed to punish any indiscretion made by a player in a Saffron shirt, especially in the first half. They improved after the restart but Laois were always a step ahead.
Like the game against Kerry, Antrim made a slow start. The home side were first to every ball and proactive in their approach rather than reactive. They imposed their game on Antrim from the first whistle but some wayward shooting meant they held just a one point lead before Paddy Burke equalised for Antrim in the fifth minute.
The applause had barely died around O’Moore Park when the home side scored their first goal. Goalkeeper Rowland launched a huge poc out with the sliotar landing on the Antrim 21 yard line. The Saffrons defence failed to clear with Purcell taking full advantage, giving Ryan Elliott no chance in the Antrim goals.
Antrim responded well and but for the brilliance of Joe Phelan, they could have had a goal moments later. The Laois corner back heroically denying Conor McCann when the Antrim captain had his sights set on goal.
A brace of points from Mark Kavanagh (free) and Cha Dwyer were answered to by white flags from McManus and McCambridge but Laois were well on top. Kavanagh (two frees), Jack Kelly, Purcell and the lively Ross King landed white flags with James McNaughton (free) and Eoin O’Neill finding the only response for Antrim to leave the home side six points clear after 20 minutes. In fairness Antrim were looking more dangerous in attack and could have scored their first goal of the game in this period, Rowland denying McNaughton after the Loughgiel man showed great presence to fire low to evade the three defenders on his heels.
The inside forward duo of Ciaran Clarke and Eoin O’Neill were becoming more prominent and it was the Ballycastle man who provided the moment of brilliance for another Antrim goal chance. Spotting McManus on the run, Clarke provided an inch perfect cross field ball for the Ruairi Og man to run onto. Through on goal, McManus was felled by Matthew Whelan and Antrim had a penalty to claw their way back into the game. McManus struck the penalty to the bottom right hand corner with venom but Rowland was equal to his shot and at full stretch managed to keep the sliotar out. The home side countered with Jack Lennon firing over to open a seven point lead before scoring the second goal of the game with the next attack. Purcell collecting a high ball before providing Willie Dunphy with a pop pass on the run. Dunphy was through on goal and made no mistake, once again giving Elliott no chance. From potentially reducing the Laois lead to three, in the space of 60 seconds Antrim were trailing by 10 points and faced with an uphill task.
McCambridge (two), Keelan Molloy and Ciaran Clarke found the target for Antrim in the time that remained only for Laois to reply with Aaron Dunphy, Matthew Whelan, Jack Kelly and Kavanagh giving the home side a 10 point lead at the short whistle.
Antrim players stop the ball on the line as Laois go for a goal from a 20m free later in the first half.
Half time: Laois 2-13 Antrim 0-9
Playing with the help of a strong wind in the second half, Antrim needed a fast start. It didn’t come. Laois dropped deep and starved the Antrim forwards of space while being more accurate infront of the target. Eight minutes into the second half, the home side had stretched their lead to 13 points with Aaron Dunphy, ‘keeper Enda Rowland (free), Kavanagh and Cha Dwyer finding the target with McNaughton the solitary Saffron scorer in the same time.
Antrim showed more attacking cohesion and created another goal chance, Molloy dancing his way through with three Laois defenders on his heels. He pulled on the sliotar having lost control but Rowland once again denied the Saffrons. McManus (’65) and a brace from Molloy got Antrim firing once again and while another huge free from Rowland temporarily halted the Saffron charge, Antrim looked like they could make headway into the Laois lead.
Points from O’Neill and McCambridge reduced the deficit to nine points and it could have been better for the Saffrons but Clarke’s innovative strike found the wrong side of the post. The home side responded with a brace of points from Kavanagh (free) and Cha Dwyer before Antrim finally found the back of the Laois net in the 61st minute. McManus with a rasping 21 yard free that finally beat Rowland, despite the Laois ‘keeper getting a touch.
Substitute Stephen Bergin and McManus (free) swapped scores but time was running out for the Saffrons and their hopes were all but ended when McCambridge’s game was cut short. The Cushendall man seeing red for a second yellow card with four minutes remaining. Antrim continued to push for goals but the Laois defence yielded very little. Kavanagh landed his seventh white flag of the game with substitute David Kearney responding for the Saffrons.
Neill McManus’s hurl breaks as he contests a high ball during the Joe McDonagh Cup game in Portaloise. Pic by Sean Paul McKillop
Antrim carved another goal chance with Eoghan Campbell’s snapshot finding the wrong side of the post after Paddy Burke’s delivery but it wasn’t Antrim’s day in front of the target. McManus tried for more heroics from placed ball but his drive hit the bottom of the right hand post and while the sliotar fell loose, Clarke could only scoop his effort over the bar. Molloy and the impressive Cha Dwyer rounded off the scoring in injury time to leave Laois eight point winners.
A harsh reminder of hurling at this level can be cruel. Laois deserved their win but the game was defined in small moments throughout the hour. An incredible penalty save, heroic Laois defending and goal keeping while Laois had the quality to punish with a style of play that was entertaining to watch.
Onwards to Offaly in two weeks time.
Laois centre forward Willie Dumphy scores his team’s second goal less than a minute after Neil McManus’s penalty was saved at the other end
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Phelim Duffin; Paddy Burke (0-1), Conor Boyd, Matthew Donnelly; Neil McManus (1-3, 1-1f’s, 1 ’65), Nicky McKeague; James McNaughton (0-2, 2f’s), Ryan McCambridge (0-4), Keelan Molloy (0-4); Ciaran Clarke (0-2), Conor McCann, Eoin O’Neill (0-2)
Subs: David Kearney (0-1) for M Donnelly (HT); Nigel Elliott for N McKeague (HT); Martin Burke for J Dillon (45); Eoghan Campbell for J McNaughton (45); Daniel McCloskey for C McCann (64)
Laois: Enda Rowland (0-3, 3f’s); Donncha Hartnett, Matthew Whelan (0-1), Joe Phelan; Padraig Delaney, Ryan Mullaney, Lee Cleere; John Lennon (0-1), Jack Kelly (0-2); Charles Dwyer (0-4), Willie Dunphy (1-00), Paddy Purcell (1-1); Mark Kavanagh (0-7, 4 f’s, 2 ‘65’s), Eanna Lyons, Ross King (0-1)
Subs: Aaron Dunphy (0-2) for E Lyons (27); Conor Phelan (0-1) for J Lennon (45); Stephen Bergin (0-1) for P Delaney (49); Eoin Gaughan for R King (58); Eric Killeen for L Cleere (62)
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)